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American Psychological Society annual conference: One in three people have no passion in their lives

NEARLY A third of people have no passion in their lives. Psychologists have found that a sizeable proportion of the population have no strong inclination towards any particular object or activity and as a result are less satisfied than people who have a "passion".

Passion has long been associated with brilliance and success. From Michelangelo's passionate relationship with marble to Richard Branson's passion for building businesses.

The darker side of passion, which leads to suffering and unhappiness, has been the inspiration for many films. John Wayne in The Searchers spends his life trying to find his kidnapped niece, sacrificing everything for his obsession.

The results of the study, conducted by Robert Vallerand, professor of psychology at the University of Quebec in Montreal, were presented at the American Psychological Society annual conference, in Denver, Colorado.

Professor Vallerand, who studied 525 people, found that 30 per cent had no passion in their lives, while the remainder were split between two distinct types of passion: harmonious and obsessive.

"If someone can't help themselves and they have to let their passion run its course at any cost then they have obsessive passion," he said.

"People with obsessive passion neglect the rest of their life, causing conflict both within themselves and with those around them."

In contrast those with harmonious passion are in control: "They are able to decide when to fulfil their passion and can fit it in with the rest of their life. It has a very positive effect on their enjoyment of life," he said.

Those involved in the study were asked to choose something that they loved to do, did regularly and felt was important to them. They then filled in three questionnaires. The first determined the kind of passion they felt by asking them questions such as how they felt if they were prevented from indulging in their pet passion. The second determined how they felt during and after indulging their passion and the third assessed their general state of mind and enjoyment of life.

Two-thirds felt they had a passion that was important to them. "People with harmonious passion use their activity to cope better with the other aspects of their lives. It appears to facilitate increased self-confidence and personal growth, said Professor Vallerand.

"Those who engage in obsessive passion neglect those around them. They have the same satisfaction with life as those with no passion at all."